ON THE FARM
What kind of cows do you milk?
We have a mixed herd, and each breed a different value to our herd. Not to mention they all have very different personalities making it a lot more fun!
- Holstein (black and red and white) - Holsteins are known for higher production.
- Jerseys - Jerseys are smaller, less production, however have a higher butterfat content.
- Ayrshire - Ayrshires are known to be great graziers.
- Brown Swiss - Brown Swiss are known to have higher production as well as a perfect fat to protein ratio for cheese making.
All of our cows are registered, meaning they are purebred of their breed. Similar to AKC for dogs this adds value to each of our cows. We can trace our cow’s families, as well as have them classified which puts a numeric score to evaluate the cow.
How does a dairy cow spend its day?
The cows are milked in the morning, and again in the evening. If season allows, they are free to come in and out of the barn to roam and graze in the pasture in between. However, dairy cows spend 12 to 14 hours a day lying down in the barn, and that is the time when they are producing milk. Therefore, we provide waterbeds, which feature an extra front pillow to ensure utmost comfort for the cows while descending onto the bed, and lying down. Well rested and happy cows produce the most and the best quality of milk.
How much milk does a cow produce?
This depends on the breed of cow, Jerseys come in at about seven and Holsteins can produce ten or more gallons per day.
Are your cows grass fed?
Yes, the majority of their diet consists of grass, aka hay. Our cows go out to pasture during the summer months to graze on fresh grass. And in winter months we supplement with rations of grass / dry hay, and a grain “mash”. Whey (a by-product from our cheesemaking) is used to wet it and bind the mash. We work closely with a nutritionist to adjust the grain based our herd’s needs. The cow gets the perfect bite of her nutrient requirements with this feeding system.
How do the cows handle the cold Vermont winters?
Cows normal body temperature is 101.5 so they handle the cold much better than humans do. Calves wear jackets and get an extra layer of straw bedding to keep them warm.
When, and why do you separate calves from their mom?
The mom licks and dries off her baby for a few hours. Since baby calves are born with no immune system, we want to make sure that they are fed the best quality and right amount of colostrum at their first feeding. Colostrum contains antibodies to protect the newborn against disease. This is the most important meal of their lives so we will milk the mother in the parlor then feed her colostrum directly to her baby. Then the baby calves are moved to their own individual pen, which allows us to monitor their health individually. Their immune system is young, and the pens prevent the spread of sickness amongst them and gives them shelter.
Do you calve seasonally? No. Our cows calve year round. A cow’s gestation period is the same as humans, 9 months. We will breed a heifer a little after she turns a year so she has her first baby around 2 years old. Then we start milking her.
I heard your farm used to be a water buffalo farm, what happened to the water buffalo? The owner who was originally from Canada, brought the herd back north. However, we did keep one water buffalo heifer to tell the story.
IN THE CREAMERY
How long between milking the cows and making the cheese? The total "milk to make" time ranges from just 12 hours old to under 48 hours. Since cheesemaking takes place M-F, the milk from weekend may sit for no more than 48 hours.
What are curds and whey?
Curds are what cheddar is before being formed into blocks or wheels and aged. When curds are really fresh, they are referred to as "Squeaky Cheese" as they squeak against your teeth! Whey is essentially the water you are trying to remove from the curds in order to make cheese. It is a byproduct, contains many proteins, and when dried and converted to powder form, can be used in many baking products. Weight lifters use it to bulk up.
When do you add the beer for your Custom Alehouse Cheddar? And how much beer is added? How long is the cheese aged?
After the whey has been drained and curds have been milled, we hose it down with beer. We use about a keg and a half for 1500 lbs. of cheese. Then age for at least eight months to achieve the desired flavor profile.
How much milk does the large vat hold and how much cheese can you make with it?
The large vat holds up to 16,000 lbs. of milk and makes approximately 1,600 lbs. of cheese. (ten percent yield)
What are cultures?
Cheese makers use starter cultures to control the process of ripening the milk and converting the milk sugar into lactic acid. Cheese cultures are combined single strains of bacteria that were isolated many years ago from cheese dairies producing great cheese. The same cultures are used for cow's, goat's and sheep's milk.
What is Rennet?
Rennet is complex of enzymes that is added to the vat of milk to coagulate it into a tofu consistency. Once cut, it separates into the cheese solids known as curds and the whey, which is the liquid that will drain off.
Is your Rennet vegetarian?
Yes, we use a microbial rennet. No animals were harmed to obtain our rennet.
Which of your cheeses are pasteurized?
Alehouse Cheddar, Edam, Lille', Tilsit, and Angeline.
For the raw milk cheeses, how long are they aged?
At least six months and up to three years. It varies per type of cheese.
What is a Peg Mill?
A "Peg" mill (imported from England) has metal fingers that tears the curd into various sizes and is required to make authentic English-style cheddars. We are the only scaled North American producer using this method and the result is a drier texture that can be complimented by a complex array of flavors.
What is a Coulommiers? Coulommiers cheese is a cheese from the 'Coulommiers' commune in the Seine-et-Marne department from France, as this is the place where it was produced for the first time! The cheese is very similar to Brie and has a white, bloomy edible rind. Coulommiers tastes the best when served with apples, pears or fresh berries.
What makes a Coulommiers different from a Brie or a Camembert?
It is taller in format, has a lactic core that ripens last, and nuances of nuts and mushroom.
Fenugreek is an Indian herb and spice with many health benefits. The seeds are used in cooking and to make medicine. Fenugreek seeds smell and taste somewhat like maple syrup, and are often used as a maple flavoring. We use the seeds in our Sugarhaus Edam cheese to give notes of maple and walnut.